(Traditional Comics) GUEST REVIEW by ROBERT DAYTON
This is 80s. Very 80s. Very 1980s. The covers and interiors have more squiggles and triangles than a Ford Fiesta. Altho it’s a pretty brand spanking new comic book, this is 80s for a coupla reasons.
“Night Business” satisfies where Abel Ferrara’s movie “Fear City” doesn’t. Like that movie, this comic book is about a mysterious psycho murdering strippers in 1980s New York City. “Fear City” –unlike Ferrara’s movies before and after-plays out like a pedestrian compromise. “Night Business” reads like the movies that “Fear City” seemed to want to be: “Maniac”, “New York Ripper”, and “Vice Squad.” Lurid exploitation, pre-Guiliani sleaze, extreme violence mixed with sex, stylized grimy Yanqui Grand Guignol. Street fights and bloody knives. Straight-ahead plots aiming for the gut.
Benjamin Marra has a real sense of knowledge for this specific type of cinema. “Night Business” never lets on, it never winks, total poker face. Tongue covertly in cheek, one can see smoke casually flare out of the nostrils of the unseen caption box narrator. That this is a comic book and not a movie suffices enough to make it more absurd.
There’s another reason why this feels 80s. It could have easily have come out of the black and white comic book glut where everyone was putting out comics trying to cash-in on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle frenzy, some real oddball comics came out of that and this could easily have been one of them. But it is certainly accomplished. There is a deceptive stiffness that works for it giving the comic a crackle of intensity/removal play. The grid form gives the panels a voyeuristic quality. Yet these panels have a rhythmic staccato flow. They occasionally open up for wide shots, such as the sequence of one of the strippers in the ballet studio. All through each of her sweeping movements she looks like a hood ornament. All of the characters themselves seem to be composed of taut, molded clay with faces that look like grinning skulls.
Issue three of “Night Business” is the best, a real delivery of the goods with extra anchovies as it gets into the satisfying delirium of revenge. A masked lingerie lady zooms around on her motorbike helping strippers by running over their attacker’s heads and leaving a well wrought trail of blood. Gunfire, explosions, pills, heroin. The detective gets deeper into the case. Pimp Donny applies his fingernail ripping torture technique. In terms of pacing, this issue is more advanced. Different vantage points and perspectives for the choreographed action scenes are applied, occasionally breaking it up with some emotional downtime. And a cliffhanger that gets us juiced for issue four. These comics aren’t distributed by Diamond. Diamond pisses me off. Order direct from the artist.
“Gangsta Rap Posse” is a comic book about a nasty rap group that lives what they rap about to total excess, gun wielding, crack selling, pimping. It takes place in 1991 and -like the 1983 of “Night Business”- Marra gives it the feel of the time. I pause to ponder, “What would a comic of his set in the present day be like?” (www.traditionalcomics.com)